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Enacting law : the dramaturgy of the courtroom on the contemporary stage

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Although historical research into twentieth-century theatrical tribunals is widespread, the recurring theme of justice in contemporary performance practices remains largely unexplored. However, an increasing number of twenty-first-century artists have begun relying on structures of the court. By creating theatrical tribunals, these artists try to create a space for an alternative jurisdiction. However, a clear typology of this tribunal genre in the contemporary performing arts is still lacking. This article therefore aims to characterize theatrical tribunals. In the first section, I describe the setting of the courtroom as a theatrical place in which law gets enacted or performed. Following several scholars that already stated the important spectacular aspects of the legal system, I discuss the dramaturgy of the courtroom as a specific dramatic place with its own scenography, script, and dramatis personae. Next, by analyzing the dramaturgy of the courtroom, I distinguish two categories within the tribunal genre: (1) re-enactments of preeminent lawsuits that heavily rely on twentieth-century documentary practices and (2) performative pre-enactments of futuristic trials that have not yet been held or cannot be held because of systemic shortcomings. Finally I examine how contemporary theatrical tribunals could contribute to the enlargement of public knowledge on historical and contemporary examples of injustice, and whether they could obtain effective changes in our societies.
ISSN: 2469-4053
Issue: 1
Volume: 10
Number of pages: 1
Publication year:2021